Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
October 14, 2021
Jackbox Games, Inc.
Jackbox Games, Inc.
Much like annual sports games and competitive multiplayer shooters, The Jackbox Party Pack has become a dependable yearly release – ready to provide accessible entertainment and player-driven shenanigans for the eighth year in a row. The Jackbox Party Pack 8 has now been released and with it comes 5 irreverent party games playable via phone, tablet or PC. So what goodies can be found within this year’s box?
The Jackbox Party packs have become a staple of social/party gaming with franchise favourite minigames like Fibbage and Quiplash rocketing the series into mainstream popularity. Each party pack brings 5 new minigames, all of which are playable online or offline and via a bunch of different devices. The accessibility of having your phone as a controller and the requirement of only needing one person within any given group to own the game has always allowed Jackbox to maintain its position as a much-loved party game. The mixture of new and interesting minigames alongside iterations or sequels of past favourites has also allowed this series to flourish within a niche of gaming that seems to be ever-increasing in demand.
This year’s Jackbox brings back an old favourite with new ideas in Drawful Animate, allowing players to create a two-frame image based on a random prompt. Also present is The Wheel of Enormous Proportions, a mixture of trivia with a random chance element brought about by spinning a giant wheel. Job Job is a word game facilitating hilariously stupid sentences constructed awkwardly from borrowed words. Poll Mine tests your knowledge of your fellow players by asking you to snoop out the results of a group poll. And finally, Weapons Drawn is the social deduction/deception game of the bunch, allowing players to try and get away with murder whilst hiding their identity within hand-drawn pictures.
A common criticism of the Jackbox games is that each bundle tends to bring about a couple of great minigames alongside a few forgettable ones. After spending some good hours with The Jackbox Party Pack 8, I can’t say that this game bucks that trend. And unfortunately, whilst the game is undeniably fun with the right group of people, Jackbox 8’s greatest sin is that it feels like a rather middling release within the full 8 game lineup.
The standout minigame of the bunch this time around is Job Job. It’s a new idea built on the foundation of past Jackbox releases but it feels fresh and brings about a consistent level of enjoyment. The game will ask each player some leading questions and encourages them to give detailed answers. These answers are then used as the basis of new prompts, as players begin to click and drag words from multiple other players’ answers to form awkward sentences of their own. It’s kind of great because it gives players the freedom to fully construct their own funny answers much like Quiplash, yet they’re still restricted by the pool of words in front of them, meaning there’s less pressure and more guidance. It also means that you’re guaranteed to get some awkward sentences that don’t quite make sense, which is always hilarious. Being able to use words from the prompt itself is also a clever touch and goes a long way in helping the player to actually answer the prompt cohesively (but not too cohesively). The only downside to Job Job is that it can often be too rewarding for players who take a less inspired approach and use the words of another player verbatim without any splicing or dicing. It’s disappointing to see an absolutely brilliant answer appear on your screen, only to then find out that every single word came from the exact same place and was likely already in that exact order. Regardless, it’s an overall minor critique for a pack highlight that had my friends and I in stitches constantly.
“Having two frames of animation brings about a goofy smile as players attempt to awkwardly represent their given prompt in picture form.”
This year’s drawing minigame is Drawful Animate and it’s a fun advancement on what came before it. Having two frames of animation brings about a goofy smile as players attempt to awkwardly represent their given prompt in picture form. The prompts themselves are often ludicrous and challenging to depict, which other players can take advantage of as they try to fool their friends with a fake prompt of their own. Drawful Animate totally works and the two-frame animation is so joyous and functional that I’m surprised we haven’t seen it before. Although with that said, I can’t help but want more from this minigame. I wanted them to have taken that core animation idea and do something truly different and impressive with it, rather than fall back on obvious past formulas.
The Wheel of Enormous Proportions is the trivia minigame of the bunch and whilst I don’t enjoy it thematically as much as Trivia Murder Party from packs 3 & 6, it does work as an entertaining trivia game. Having random luck elements associated with the spinning of a wheel keeps it from getting too competitive, though chance did seem to play too big of a role in the games I experienced. As an Aussie, I also love that you can turn off American-centric questions, and I found overall the questions to be varied and appropriate.
“…not only is it a game of social deduction, but it’s also a test in restraint and potentially deception…”
Poll Mine splits the players into two teams and collects responses from all players privately based on a few different prompts. The players will then discuss as teams where certain answers are likely to rank amongst the group consensus. The fun twist here is that if you’re too open with your team about your own answers during discussions, the opposing team can learn crucial information that can lead to your undoing. So not only is it a game of social deduction, but it’s also a test in restraint and potentially deception as you look to mislead the other team who are eavesdropping on your deliberations. Poll Mine provides a good balance to some of the other minigames as a more social experience with moments of encouraged discussion. It’s also the game of the pack that tests your knowledge of the players you’re playing with, a reliable and fun trope of past Jackbox packs. Whilst Poll Mine is fun and I enjoy the theming, I also can’t help but feel like it’ll get forgotten in time. Similarly to Drawful Animate, the potential for further expansion is clear but wasn’t taken, making the end result somewhat lacklustre.
Weapons Drawn is our final minigame and probably my second favourite of the pack. It’s a game where players attempt to get away with murder whilst simultaneously cracking the case on other murders. The exciting twist here is that players have to obfuscate their identity within the kill by hiding a letter of their own name within a hand-drawn picture of the murder weapon. It’s actually a really cool concept even though it’s a little hard to explain. The premise is great and the execution mostly gets there. Where I found Weapons Drawn faltered slightly is that it was a little too generous to the murderer. The letter hidden within the picture could be written in a different typeface, stretched in strange ways, rotated, shrunk, and obfuscated. When a letter was revealed, very rarely did I have that moment of “Oh, that’s where it was hiding! How clever!”. In fact, too often the response was “Wait, that’s suppose to be an ‘e’? How were we ever suppose to see that?”. A player who knows what they are doing has too much power to get away with murder. It’s still a brilliantly fun concept, but there are just a few too many ways to game the system.
Overall, The Jackbox Party Pack 8 proves that a winning formula never gets old. By this point, the developers feel as though they’re in a rhythm, able to create genuinely entertaining and varied party games year on year. The accessibility of these games means you can play with any group of people and the value proposition feels generous. Get a good group of people together and Jackbox 8 will provide countless hours of laugh-out-loud entertainment and tomfoolery. At this point, I just wish to see things get pushed further. There’s an entire lineage of Jackbox games vying for our attention and so every new release feels just slightly less necessary than the last. Could there be a future where instead of expected yearly releases we instead get a more extravagant and monumental Jackbox launch? I sure hope so!
- Still one of the best party game franchises out there
- Fantastically accessable and generous
- Job Job is an absolute winner
- Plenty of room for improvement in most minigames
- A fairly middling game for the Jackbox franchise as a whole
Does The Jackbox Party Pack 8 stand out amongst the prior 7 releases? Probably not. But what we do have is a genuinely solid lineup of 5 new minigames that’ll help ensure your next games night is an absolute cracker. This is one yearly release I’m happy to support because Jackbox offers crazy good value for money and a gaming environment that’s so approachable for gamers and non-gamers alike. After 8 years of annual releases, The Jackbox Party Pack 8 certainly doesn’t feel as special as past games, but the entertainment found within is undeniable.